Sardinia and Corsica each have a unique history, stretching back 5,000 years. In spite of centuries of invasion and occupation, each island has maintained a distinctive culture, reflecting both their current status as part of modern Italy and France, and millennia of ancient and diverse Mediterranean influences. This tour showcases the very best of each island – from prehistoric archaeological sites, to Romanesque architecture, and the history of Napoleon – and explores how their history has been shaped by the superb mountainous landscapes and coastlines, living on in the distinctive cuisines and local traditions.
From the Bronze Age to Napoleon, these less-visited islands of the Western Mediterranean combine ancient cultures, dramatic history and breathtaking scenery.
Key Bronze Age and Roman sites in Sardinia, particularly Nuraghic towers, tombs and fortress-villages
Distinctive Pisan Romanesque architecture on both islands
Bonifacio, a citadel perched on southern Corsica’s precipitous limestone cliffs
Ajaccio, Napoleon’s birthplace, and the Musee Fesch, the extraordinary art collection acquired by his uncle
Scenic drives along Sardinia’s west coast and the high mountains of central Corsica, plus the Scandola Nature Reserve
The fresh and distinctive food and wine of the islands
Days 1–3: Group flight from Rome. Stay in the resort town of Pula, visit sites at Nora and Su Nuraxi.
Days 4–5: Travel to Santa Caterina, visit the Punic-Roman site Tharros.
Days 6–8: Explore Alghero’s Catalan influences, take a boat trip to the ‘Grotte di Nettuno’ and enjoy a wine tasting.
Days 9–10: Marvel at the Costa Smeralda on the way to the ferry for Corsica. Explore Bonifacio.
Days 11–13: Travel to Ajaccio via prehistoric Filitosa. Boat trip to the Scandola Nature Reserve.
Days 14–16: Admire vestiges of Pisan rule in the Romanesque architecture outside Bastia, a picturesque port.
A detailed itinerary for this tour is available. Click on the link above to view or download.
The tour begins at Rome Fiumicino airport and ends at the hotel in Bastia. Emirates and Qatar Airways offer direct flights to Rome for our continuing group flight to Cagliari, and from Nice with a connecting flight from Bastia. Contact us for quotes and bookings.
Included meals are shown with the letters B, L and D.
Friday March 20: Rome to Sardinia
Meet your tour leader at Rome Fiumicino airport to commence the tour. Take an early afternoon group flight to Cagliari, then transfer by private coach to our hotel in Pula, a resort town on the south coast about one hour away. In the early evening we meet for welcome drinks and a light dinner in our hotel. Overnight Pula (B, D)
Saturday March 21: A snapshot of ancient Sardinia
After an introductory lecture we visit the Punic-Roman archaeological site of Nora, just a few minutes from our hotel. The site is beautifully situated on a narrow headland. Next to the site is an 11th century church built in honour of the martyr saint, Efisio. We then enjoy a welcome lunch in Pula before heading out to the Bronze Age nuraghe of Sa Domu and S’Orcu. These humble structures give us our first glimpse of Sardinia’s impressive pre-history. In the late afternoon there is the possibility of a swim at the beach at Nora. Overnight Pula (B, L)
Sunday March 22: Cagliari
Sardinia’s capital is spread out around the base of a fortress, built by Pisans in the 13th century and strengthened by the Spanish in the 16th. After a morning lecture, we travel to Cagliari and visit the excellent archaeological museum, containing the very best artefacts from the Nuragic period, as well as Phoenician and Roman pieces. Next door is the small picture gallery, containing numerous altarpieces from the Spanish period. A walking tour takes us through the old city to the cathedral and down to the vibrant Castello district, where there are many restaurants in the narrow laneways. We return to Pula in the afternoon. Overnight Pula (B)
Monday March 23: Su Nuraxi
We depart Pula this morning and head north. Our first stop is the well-preserved Romanesque sanctuary church of Santa Maria, just north of Cagliari. The church is built in the Pisan style, and gives us our first evidence of the presence of the maritime empire of Pisa in Sardinia. Nearby is the town of San Sperate, attractively decorated with murals, a Sardinian tradition. We then visit Su Nuraxi, Sardinia’s largest Bronze Age fortified village and a UNESCO World-Heritage site. After a simple lunch, we continue to the small coastal town of Santa Caterina in Pittinuri. There is the possibility of a swim in the ocean on arrival. Dinner is in the hotel. Overnight Santa Caterina (B, L, D)
Tuesday March 24: Tharros and Cabras
After a lecture, we visit Tharros, Sardinia’s most impressive Punic-Roman site, dating from the 8th century BC. Located on a headland jutting into the sea, there are well preserved Roman remains and evidence of a Tophet, a Punic burial ground, perhaps used for child sacrifice. In the nearby town of Cabras we visit the excellent archaeological museum before returning to Santa Caterina. Overnight Santa Caterina (B)
Wednesday March 25: Bosa and the Western Coast
We depart Santa Caterina and visit two varied archaeological sites. The first is a superbly preserved sacred well at Santa Cristina from the Nuragic period, evidence of the advanced nature of this period of prehistory. Next is a Roman bath complex of Fordongianus, built around a hot spring in the first century AD. We then drive along a charming country road to Bosa, perhaps Sardinia’s prettiest town. Situated on a river, it is dominated by a medieval Spanish castle. This afternoon there is a stunning drive up the isolated western coast to Alghero, with views rivalling Italy’s famed Amalfi Coast. Dinner is in a local restaurant. Overnight Alghero (B, D)
Thursday March 26: Alghero
Alghero displays a clear Spanish influence and a form of Catalan dialect is still spoken. After a morning lecture, we tour the fortified old city, before taking a boat trip to the ‘Grotte di Nettuno’ a fine network of limestone caves in a national park just to the north of Alghero. The later afternoon is at leisure. Overnight Alghero (B)
Friday March 27: Wine and Ruins
This morning we visit two remarkable sites. Sant’Andrea Priu, on a remote inland hill is a large Neolithic burial chamber, perhaps 5,000 years old, and in continuous use right through to the Byzantine period in the 8th century AD. Nearby Santu Antime is a large and complex Nuragic fortress. Returning back to Alghero, we visit Anghelu Ruju, another burial chamber and then enjoy a tour and late afternoon wine tasting at one of Sardinia’s best regarded winemakers. Overnight Alghero (B, wine tasting)
Saturday March 28: The Costa Smerelda and Corsica
We depart Alghero, bound for Corsica. En route we pass by the Costa Smeralda, an exclusive holiday destination on Sardinia’s east coast, developed by the Aga Khan. We then visit the Nuragic sites near Arzhachena. This includes the ‘giant’s tomb’ of Coddu Veccju, a monumental grave with a circle of impressive monoliths. We arrive at Santa Teresa in Gallura in time to check in for our 5pm ferry to Bonifacio. The approach to Bonifacio by water is spectacular. Dinner is in our hotel. Overnight Bonifacio (B, D)
Sunday March 29: Bonifacio
This morning after a lecture a local guide shows us the highlights of Bonifacio. The town is named after its Tuscan founder, Count Boniface, who came here in 828. The Genoese, in their early phases of their maritime empire established a presence here in 1187, the first of their Corsican holdings. For centuries the town has faced attack from Saracens, Pirates and fighting Pisan, Genoese and Spanish forces, all wanting to control this strategic place. After our tour the afternoon and evening are free. There are several walks near the town and you might like to take a short cruise of the harbour and nearby islands. Overnight Bonifacio (B)
Monday March 30: Sartene and Filitosa
The day is spent traversing the rugged south-west corner of Corsica. The long drive takes us to the medieval town of Sartene where we pause for lunch in a local restaurant. Our next stop is Filitosa, Corsica’s most important prehistoric site. Here we view the 4,000-year-old anthropomorphic menhirs – stone warriors – which were discovered by Charles-Antoine Cesari as recently as 1946. We arrive in Ajaccio in the late afternoon. Overnight Ajaccio (B, L)
Tuesday March 31: Scandola National Park
A coach and boat excursion takes us along the famously beautiful western coast of Corsica. A highlight of our day is a boat excursion through the Scandola Nature Reserve, whose sheer red granite cliffs, transparent waters and abundant flora, birdlife and marine fauna have earned in a place on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Overnight Ajaccio (B, L)
Wednesday April 1: Napoleon and Ajaccio
Napoleon Bonaparte is Ajaccio’s most famous son, and the city makes the most of the connection. After a lecture, this morning we visit the Maison Bonaparte, Napoleon’s childhood home, now a museum dedicated to the Emperor and his family. We also visit the nearby Palais Fesch, and fine arts museum which was once home to Napoleon’s uncle, Cardinal Joseph Fesch. The cardinal was a major art collector, and many of his paintings are now to be found in the National Gallery, London and The Louvre. The collection in Ajaccio has works by important Italian primitives, as well as big names such as Titian and Botticelli. Within the palace is the Chapelle Imperiale, containing the tombs of several members of the Bonaparte family. Overnight Ajaccio (B)
Thursday April 2: Corte and the Central Mountains
A spectacular drive takes us over Corsica’s central mountain range. We stop to enjoy the fine scenery of massive granite cliffs, oak forests and river valleys. Corte lies at the geographic centre of Corsica and is intimately connected to the island’s struggle for independence in the 18th century and, more recently, with Corsica’s cultural identity. We visit the Musèe de la Corse which explores Corsica’s history and traditions. We then proceed to a lunch of traditional Corsican specialities before continuing to Bastia. Overnight Bastia (B, L)
Friday April 3: Bastia and Cap Corse
On our final day we explore the old city of Bastia. Named after its Genoese bastion, there is also a lovely old port and elegant city squares to explore. Napoleon’s island of exile, Elba, can be clearly seen from the bastion. This afternoon we visit the small Roman archaeological site and Pisan church at Mariana, named after its founder, the Roman consul Marius, an important player in Rome’s civil war in the 1st century BC. We then head to the hills to visit the magnificent Pisan Romanesque church of San Michele. This evening there is a farewell meal in a local restaurant. Overnight Bastia (B, D)
Saturday April 4: Departure
The tour ends this morning after breakfast. Please consult your individual travel documents for your outbound journey. (B)
Dr Estelle Lazer
An archaeologist who has worked on site at Pompeii for numerous seasons and has an international reputation for her research on the city's skeletal remains.
Dr Estelle Lazer is an archaeologist with an international reputation for her work on the human victims of Pompeii, with more field seasons in the Bay of Naples than she cares to remember! Her PhD studied the site’s human skeletons, and her current project is to CT scan and X-ray the unique casts of these victims. Estelle’s book, Resurrecting Pompeii, was published by Routledge and her work forms a core part of the Ancient History syllabus for the NSW Higher School Certificate.
Estelle is an Honorary Research Associate in the Department of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Sydney. In October 2017, the University of Sydney and the Pompeii Archaeological Park signed an historic Memorandum of Agreement to partner in an important new scanning project led by Estelle. Her research has received considerable media attention in print, radio and television, with two documentaries (one for the BBC and Smithsonian, and another in production for Britain’s Channel 5) ensuring a wide audience for her fascinating findings.
Her other main field of research is historical archaeology in Antarctica and the Sub-Antarctic. Estelle spent four summers working on Mawson’s Huts, and has spent another summer studying evidence of the sealing industry as well as Australia’s first post-war Antarctic base at Heard Island. She has also worked on archaeological sites in Bahrain, south-eastern Italy, Cyprus, the UK and Australia.
In addition to her teaching work at the University of Sydney, University of New South Wales and University of Technology, Sydney, Estelle gives frequent public lectures at the invitation of universities, schools and museums, such as the Australian National University, Oxford University, the British Museum, University of Trondheim, Norway and the British School at Rome.
Estelle has led tours to Italy and the Mediterranean for Academy Travel since the company’s inception in 2004, and also works extensively with our Academy Schools program for teachers and students. In addition to her obvious archaeological expertise, she particularly enjoys explaining the place of mythology in the landscape – especially in Sicily and southern Italy.
What is included in the tour price? Unless otherwise stated in the itinerary, our tours include the following:
Any flights mentioned in the itinerary that take place during a tour
Land travel by private air-conditioned coach. Where appropriate public transport is also used for short distance travel on some tours
All accommodation in hotels or apartments as stated in the itinerary
Breakfasts, lunches and dinners specifically stated as included in the itinerary
Drinks at welcome and farewell meals. Other meals may not have drinks included
Background talks on tour, site notes and online resources
Services of tour leader throughout tour
All entrance fees to sites mentioned in the itinerary
Local guides at some sites
Tips for drivers, local guides and restaurants for included meals
Tours begin either at the arrival airport or the first hotel, depending on the itinerary. If you have booked your international flights with Academy Travel and arrive before the tour commences, we will provide airport to hotel transfers to the closest main city on your arrival, and to the closest airport at the end of the tour. These may be either individual or group transfers.
What is not included in the tour price? Open-age tours do not include the following:
Return international/domestic air travel unless those flights take place during the tour
Special taxes and airport levies that can only be paid in cash at the destination. We will advise you of these charges (if any) before you depart
Costs involved in obtaining visas for countries visited, where required
Travel insurance. We require all participants to have comprehensive travel insurance. A typical policy for one of our tours will cost from $160 upwards, depending on your age, pre-existing medical conditions, the countries you are visiting and the overall length of your trip
Lunches and dinners not specifically mentioned as included in the itinerary
Personal expenses such as laundry and phone calls
Costs associated with any activity mentioned as “optional” in the itinerary, or any suggested free time activity
You will be asked to sign an acknowledgement of these conditions when you book a place on a tour.
A deposit of $500 per person is required to confirm your booking on a tour. Final payment of the tour fee, insurance and any additional travel will be due 60 days before departure.
If you decide to cancel your booking the following charges apply:
More than 60 days before departure: $500*
60-45 days before tour start: 25% of total amount due
44-15 days before tour start: 75% of total amount due
14 days or less before departure: 100% of total amount due
*This amount may be credited to another Academy Travel tour within 12 months of the original tour you booked.
Unused Portions of the tour
We regret that refunds will not be given for any unused portions of the tour, such as meals, entry fees, accommodation, flights or transfers.
Academy Travel requires all participants to obtain comprehensive travel insurance. We offer a comprehensive policy with a reputable insurer if required.
Passport and Visa
A valid passport is required for all international travel. If you do not hold an Australian passport you may require a re-entry permit. Some countries require a visa to be issued before you depart Australia. We will advise you of all passport and visa requirements, but it is your responsibility to ensure that you meet passport and visa requirements before you depart.
Will the tour price change?
If the number of participants in a tour is significantly less than budgeted, or if there is a significant change in exchange rates Academy Travel reserves the right to amend the advertised price. If this occurs you will be given the option of cancelling your booking and obtaining a full refund. If an Academy Travel tour is forced to cancel you will get a full refund of all monies paid.
Will the itinerary change?
Occasionally circumstances beyond the control of Academy Travel make it necessary to change airline, hotel or to make slight amendments to daily itineraries. We will inform you of any changes as soon as they occur.
Full and final payment for the tour, airfare travel, insurance and any additional travel you book is due 60 days before departure. Payment may be made by bank deposit, cheque, cash or credit card. Please note there is a surcharge for payments made by credit card.
Academy Travel reserves the right to decline the booking or terminate the holiday of any traveller.